Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States

December 2023 9781805260295 336pp
Available as an eBook Available from Oxford Scholarship Online
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How are authority and influence accumulated and wielded across the six Gulf states? Mixing theoretical and empirical insights, and utilising both historical and contemporary examples, this book offers a comparative analysis of military, political, economic and religious power in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as of the power of narrative.

While many volumes examine each of these states individually, Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States assesses the Arabian Peninsula as a whole, filling a significant gap in the literature. It surveys the myriad factors which have influenced the emergence of these states, societies and political economies, which have become increasingly assertive actors in today’s global order.

Exploring domestic, regional and transnational pressures, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen sheds light on the varying concepts of power and authority, the different forms they take, the ways they are projected, and the practical constraints on their exercise. From whom does power derive? Is it something different from influence and ambition? Is decision-making top-down or bottom-up, or a mixture of both? From bureaucrats to scholars, and from royals to opposition figures, Coates Ulrichsen uncovers the power relations shaping the Gulf today.


‘A comprehensive examination of the nature of power in the Gulf.’ — Abrar

‘An in-depth account of the political, economic and social dynamics in the Gulf states. Challenging conventional wisdom and providing fresh insights, he skilfully analyses the ways different groups shape politics. A unique and valuable contribution.’ — Steven Wright, Associate Professor of International Relations, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and author of The United States and Persian Gulf Security

‘Kristian Coates Ulrichsen’s latest book, thematically organised and covering all six GCC states, highlights the transnational ties between these states and the ways in which social, economic, political, military and religious nodes of power interact. A path-breaking work in Gulf Studies.’ — Courtney Freer, Visiting Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Emory University, and co-author of Tribalism and Political Power in the Gulf

‘Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States brings new conceptual insights into the various degrees and forms of both soft and hard power in the region. An intellectually stimulating and rich examination of the power of GCC countries.’ — Dania Thafer, Executive Director, Gulf International Forum, and author of Creative Insecurity: Institutional Inertia and Youth Potential in the GCC

‘Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is one of the best-informed analysts of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. This is a historically grounded thematic treatment of how power is exercised, using examples from the early twentieth century to today. A must-read for all seeking to better understand this key region.’ — Lawrence G. Potter, Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and editor of The Persian Gulf in History


Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and an associate fellow of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. His books with Hurst include Qatar and the Gulf Crisis and Centers of Power in the Arab Gulf States. He supports West Ham.

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